Back to School Needs: Must have essentials for learning in the digital age

Thanks to a year like no other Back to School season has a much different meaning than what we're all used to

back to school
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Back to School season is here and with 2020 being the wild ride that it has been, gearing up for the upcoming school year is going to be a bit different than we're all used to. 

With many schools switching to online learning programs and social distancing measures in place for those that haven't, students of all ages will be learning through a mix of off-site and on-site learning activities as well as an online curriculum.

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Home schooling and online learning programs are becoming popular alternatives to the standard K-12 school environment for kids, and most colleges have shifted to online lectures and classes to abide by social distancing measures. This digital switch means students will need a new set of tools to continue learning at their best.

Laptops are replacing notepads, styli are replacing pens, tablets are replacing books and bedrooms are becoming classrooms. Ensuring that you or your child have the best learning environment at home is essential to a successful learning experience. 

To help students and parents alike get ready for this new type of school year, we've put together a brief guide on the essentials you'll need to be successful in the digital age of learning.

Back to school season essentials

With schooling switching over to online platforms, making sure the 2020 school year is successful for you or your child is going to take a bit more preparation. Just as working from home became a new – and challenging – norm for many parents this year, schooling at home becoming the new norm for kids and adults alike will be just as difficult.

Distractions are commonplace among the home with TVs, streaming services, video games and an unending list of time wasters that can draw our focus away from work or school. It's important to make sure you or your child have a quiet, comfortable place to keep the attention where it matters most.

Here's a couple things we'd recommend students of all ages have when making the switch to online schooling:

  • A proper learning space

You'll want to make sure you or your child has a quiet place to complete school work. Minimize distractions as much as possible, designate set times for doing lessons or homework, sit with your child and help them if you can. We all learn through different methods and identifying the optimal method for yourself or your child is critical to being successful with online schooling.

Buy yourself a personal office setup or look into investing into a school desk for kids if possible, you'll just want to find a way to give you or your child a separate learning space. A designated learning area helps differentiate our personal time from our school time, just as having a home office setup separates remote work. Those who work from home understand how personal and business matters tend to merge over time and if left unchecked can be detrimental to your health.

The same principle goes for schooling. Learning to keep personal time separate from schooling is critical to staying engaged and having a successful home school experience.

  • A reliable computer to participate in online classes and lessons 

While many laptops, tablets and desktop PCs are on sale during Back to School season, it's important you get the right type of laptop for your kid. Spend too little and you may end up with a less-than-ideal laptop that can't quite perform where needed, but you also don't need to be spending thousands of dollars on a personal laptop.

Stores like Best Buy and Dell are a great place to find student laptops on sale at great prices. They both make it easy to find a laptop that suits any budget, but you'll want to make sure that whatever laptop you purchase comes with a minimum of 500GB of storage built-in. Assignments and documents will start to add up really quick, making smaller storage options less viable in the long run.

You can always purchase external hard drives and SSDs (for more info on these, head over to our 10 best external hard drives of 2020 article), but for kids it's a bit simpler and more convenient if the laptop has enough storage from the start.

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Best Buy | New tech for a new way to school
Best Buy is helping students gear up for the digital age of learning with deals on student laptops, tablets and more. You can even sign up with Best Buy online to receive exclusive deals for students, ensuring you get the best deal on the tech needed to take on the new school year.View Deal

Dell | Student laptop deals & PCs on sale
Head over to Dell's Back to School sale and save on student laptops, gaming laptops, accessories and more. You'll find deals on Dell XPS laptops, Alienware Aurora and G5 laptops, monitors and laptop bags to get you geared up for the online school year. You can also use Dell's 12 month financing program on purchases of $699 or more to make payments more manageable. View Deal

  • An accredited online school program

If you or your kid are already enrolled in a school, chances are they'll already have an online learning plan setup. Teachers will provide the information for classes, such as the online meeting application being used or applications your child may need to participate.

For parents looking towards alternative learning options and online home schooling, there are a number of accredited organizations out there for kids ages 2 and up. Online learning academies such as ABCmouse provide complete learning plans for kids up to age 8, while other services like K12 provide recommendations to tuition-free online schooling programs. It's important to do your research to find an online school that's right for your child.

ABCmouse | Early Learning Academy
A complete online academy for students ages 2 through 8, ABCmouse features lesson plans and activities designed by accredited teachers around art, science, math, reading and more. Currently, ABCmouse is offering up to 49% off annual subscriptions making it the cheapest it's ever been to sign up!View Deal

K12 | Online Learning Programs
Take charge of your child's education with K12's winning combination of online learning tools and in-person learning experiences. Explore tuition-free public school programs, private schools, independent courses and more with resources for both parents and students.View Deal

Back to school sales & deals: Save money with Back to School savings at these retailers

Whether you're a parent shopping for their kids or a college student, there are a ton of Back to School sales going on right now. Pretty much everything from basic school supplies to laptops, clothing and electronics are on sale, making it the perfect time to get ready for the school year on a budget.

You can head directly to each retailer's Back to School sales page by clicking through the links below, but be sure to scroll further to check out some of the best Back to School deals on school supplies including laptops, stationary, desks, and more.